I'm into trout season now so, before my memory dims, I am writing up my fly line experience from my March adventure in Andros. Unlike trout lines that last several seasons depending on use, flats lines take a beating. No, it is not really the blazing heat or salt, modern coatings and cores are designed for this harshness. It is not even fishing out of a boat, flats boots, and I often go barefoot in the skiff with only sunscreen on my feet, just have rubber soles, no caulks as can cut a trout line in half. It is the mangrove roots festooned with barnacles and coral with razor like protrusions that take a quick toll on flats fishing lines. We go to some combination of Bahamas, Florida Keys or Belize about twice a year plus stripped bass on the flats with the same tackle in the northeast and my wife and I add at least one new line a year each. This March I had (along with older good lines) three new lines from three different makers all in 8-weight configuration.
1. SA Mastery Textured Bruce Chard "Grand Slam". There is a mouthful. I do not know Capt. Chard out of Florida and sometimes Andros except by sterling reputation. His reputation is enough that SA designed with him and named for him their newest flats line for bonefish, permit and tarpon. Its taper is aggressive! It is a 100' long with a 40' head that is about a half size heavy with only TWO FEET of front taper for turning over long leaders with weighted flies but nearly 20' of rear taper to vanquish hinging and provide loop stability during long casts. It is a two-tone line with two colors variants, a pale blue head for tan bottomed flats and an olive head for fishing over turtle grass. Thought went into this line. It loaded my Hardy Proaxis #8 perfectly and turned over a hand built 14' Fluorocarbon #15 leader as advertised. Proaxis is a powerful rod with a fast tip and excels in windy condition which we had. This line cast great and despite its dramatic taper placed my sideways swimming crab flies with precision and deft. But to a man, our guides did not like it. They insist that the hiss of textured lines is transmitted through the line into the water and is a frequency the fish don't like when you strip the fly. I am aware of no evidence that this is true and I suspect it may not be. But SA has not done any research into this question and it is always hard to fish in a way that your guide disapproves of.
2. Cortland Liquid Crystal Blue. Introduced as a clear floating line, a blue tinted, translucent version was introduced this year for those, like me, who need to see where their fly line is. Not for the high-vis camp still but enough so I never lost a clear sense of where my line, leader and fly where in relation to my targeted fish. And it floated adequately too but not so high as to be blown about by the wind. Cortland's newest flats line is "unusual"; it eschews the typical braided nylon monofilament core in favor of a nylon monocore. And they coat it, not with PVC but with polyurethane. The core has a melting point a bit higher that the polymer coating so they actually fuse together during production. This means there can be no adhesion issues of coating to core and also the inherent stretch of the nylon core is all but eliminated by the no stretch coating thermal bonding to it. Different in design than SA's Grand Slam, Blue still is aggressive in its weight bias toward the front of the belly, a medium 6' front taper and glorious 26' of rear taper for maximum stability at distance. And distance casting is accomplished easily as this line is slick as slick can be. Oh, and quite too. Another perfect match for Proaxis. My skiff partner one day was an athletically expert caster who is an advisor to a US rod maker and he asked, "How long is this line?". I answered, "90'". He said, "I sure with it was 120' long, I don't like holding backing in my hand while casting".
3. A not yet named flats line from RIO. Most know RIO has introduced a non-stretch trout line called, "Perception". Well they have developed a flats version too and generously honored me by allowing me to field test it. I don't know much about its taper but my NRX thought it was a terrific line and NRX is line temperamental. This line communicated feeling exceptionally well; because of it no-stretch core? I'm not sure but perhaps. Like other RIO coatings it was super slick and quite and generated distance or in close shots with ease. I am still weighing the merits of non-stretch lines dry fly trout fishing but fishing my sideways crab fly witch involves an accurate placement in front of a bonefish, one or two stripes to both remove any slack from the line/leader and also get the fish's attention, then pause so the fly's 10 appendages re-deploy and it sinks toward escape in the bottom's soft marl, hopefully provoking an engulfment from the bonefish, benefits from the lack of stretch. The fish eats the fly held in direct connection to my hand and I strip-strike the fly home with none of the shock absorbing effect of a conventional fly line or nylon leader. I have used Airflo's Tropic Ridge in the past which is the perfect match for my Scott S4s and felt similarly but somehow the responses of this prototype RIO feel sharper yet. I suspect they may introduce it in its final form and color at this summers IFTD Show.
I have to say, neither of the first two do a whole lot for me and I'm not inspired enough to take off my old line yet. How did you feel after fishing them? Knowing what you know now, would you buy either?
It seems that I am becoming more and more "anti-noise". My 4wt SA Textured Trout (not shorted to TT, thank you for correcting my laziness ) is starting to distract me with it's never ending grating noise. I do love the way it casts though....
I am intrigued by the Rio line though. As we were talking last week, I am currently putting Perception on a 5wt Zenith. I'm going to give it a good go in BC in a week and a half.
My NRX is like my girlfriend. She likes what she likes and that's about it. My Hardys are more open to new things.... I believe I will give that Rio line a try on my 9wt. I can see some real benefits to using it on my windy rods. I have a 9wt that has a shredded line, not from coral or mangroves, but from an old lobster trap rope covered with barnacles and a couple years of crud. A Tarpon had fun repeatedly raking my line across that big rope and now my previously new line is toast....
I too am loosing patience with the sound and feel of textured lines just to get the tapers from among them I like. The Chard line is notable except for this characteristic. Besides these new lines and the Airflo one I mentioned, there are a handful of existing lines I like. SA's venerable Mastery Bonefish Taper, RIO's Bonefish Taper with a taper similar to Gold's and RIO's Tarpon Taper in #8 & 9 is a sleeper for bonefishermen, a great line. What I do not care for are the plethora of short head lines; outbounds, redfish, etc. designed to load quick and shoot. I certainly understand why some anglers like them but they are not for presentation specialists. I also, for similar reasons, do not care for the Bermuda Triangle line, basically a shooting head with poor in close capabilities. The Cortland "Blue" is a worthy contender and the forthcoming RIO "Flats Perception" (or whatever its name is going to be) may be most relevant. As you realize, it is all about what your rod will be most happy with. The Airflo Tropic Ridge beloved by my Scott S4s is detested by NRX, it just refuses to cast with it on! The Liquid Crystal Blue is terrific on the Proaxis though but I have not tried the new RIO on it for comparison. Proaxis also likes the RIO Tarpon by the way.
I was thinking about RIO Tarpon.... I believe I am going to re-line with the "Perception" on an 8wt just for something new and the Tarpon on the 9wt.
I'm in trout mode now, but am chomping at the bit to get my hands on that new Hardy reel!
There's a huge difference between a redfish and a spooky bone/permit. The line makers surely know this, but sales are made to a lot of people because the line is so easy to lay out straight rather than how it will present a fly to a fish.
I'm curious, what are your go to NRX lines? I have a favorite and am wondering how two different anglers rate lines on the same rod....
My NRX#8 mounted with a Nautilus NV "Giga" 8 has been happy with two lines, SA's Textured Saltwater (kind of aggressive) and RIO's Tarpon (my preference between the two).
I like the RIO technical Tarpon even more so but it is available only from #10 - 12. However, after my recent trip, I believe the new RIO, non-stretch flats line may be the real winner but I will have to do some side-by-side lawn casting with them for a real comparison.
SA Bonefish has been around for a while because it is a fine line. I like it and use it too. My sole issue with it is its short rear taper does not promote long loop stability as well as say RIO Bonefish and some of the new lines incorporating longer rear tapers as above. NRX, with its relatively soft tip is particularly sensitive to this and the SA line is not ideal for NRX.
Maybe I'll have to switch it up a bit.... You know how it is, old dog-new tricks yadda yadda.
Of course, you have to realize that 90% of my casts look like ****, so it's a bit harder for me to differentiate between good lines and bad lines. I've got more slams than fingers though, so by the time I end up screwing it all up with my self-taught casting, it seems to somehow be arriving in front of the fish in some sort of reasonable fashion. Synergy I guess.
Honestly, I knew there was probably a better option out there and that was one of the reasons I asked you about what is new. I've had no issues since I tend to cast shorter distances than most for bones, but at the same time, I knew we were fishing the same rods and that you were on top of the latest and greatest, so it seems like a good time to inquire. I had picked up a bunch of Bonefish on mega-clearance and stashed it in the fridge, but I spooled up the last one this spring and the tarpon wrecked it.
I'm in need of some good line. Only the best for my new Hardy SDS.
Sweetandsalt, thanks for your usual perceptive and detailed take on these new lines. Having just returned from a flats trip to Belize last month I read this with interest. I almost got a Chard line for bonefishing based on yours and others recommendations, but ended up going with the Rio bonefish line (which I liked fine). I find it interesting that your guides didn't like the textured line--the lodge I went to (Turneffe Flats) stocked the Chard line in their tackle shop and apparently it's quite popular. I didn't ask the guides what they thought of it, but there are a lot of fishermen using it there.
I think for most anglers it is an issue of sound ,aesthetically. This group of guides is convinced the hiss is transmitted into the water disturbing the bonefish. Keeping in mind the sounds of the current generated waves, the slap of the water on a boats chines, the crunch or a push pool and in the case of Turneff Flats, the crackle of the baby branch coral snapping beneath your boots on the reef flats there is a lot of sub surface noise. It is not scientifically established if line in the guide's sound is transmitted below the surface one way or the other.
The Chard Grand Slam is a very good and long leader/heavy fly friendly flats line. More for permit in Belize than bones for whom smaller flies are generally fished than in the Bahamas. Your RIO Bonefish was a good choice. I will continue to put taper and weight distribution above sound in all fly lines but hope that SA will actually perform a sub surface microphone test convincingly in a set of controlled environments to add data to this debate.